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Syria 27, U.s. 19, John Kerry 13, United States 6, Us 6, Iraq 5, Washington 5, Dana 4, Obama 4, Pentagon 4, Barbara Starr 3, George W. Bush 3, Assad 3, Libya 3, Iran 3, America 3, Russia 3, Kosovo 3, China 2, Kerry 2,
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  CNN    The Situation Room    News/Business. Wolf Blitzer. Traditional  
   reporting and online resources update international news.  

    August 31, 2013
    3:00 - 4:01pm PDT  

joining us. i'm don lemon. we're continuing our special coverage of the syria crisis. you're watching cnn live. you saw the president today. president obama transforming syria's civil war transforming it into a tdomestic issue and putting his own credibility on the line. he will seek congressional authorization. >> that's why i've made a second decision. i will seek authorization for the use of force from the american people's representatives in congress. for the last several days we've heard from members of congress who want their voices to be heard. i absolutely agree. >> the president's decision has opened a whole new conversation here in the u.s. over what to do about syria's civil war.
support and opposition for the president's call to action crosses all political lines. members of both parties have lined up in support but vocal opposition is strong. >> i'm troubled by the justi justifications the obama administration has put forth so far. much of their discussion has concerned what they describe as international norms and they have suggested that the u.s. military should be employed to vindicate so-called international norms. in my view, u.s. military forces justify only to protect the vital national security interest of the united states. >> joining me from washington. cnn senior white house correspondent jim acosta and dana bash and barbara starr. da dana i'm going to start with
you. how much do you think pressure had on the president's decision? what has it pure politics here too? >> there's no question it was a significant factor, not the only factor. it's impossible to say that because there's so many weighing on the president's decision. not the least of which what is happening on the international level but my understanding in talking to several senators who are on phone calls and briefings over the past few days with top obama officials is that the pressure really was mounting. not just from republicans and not just from aennti-war libera democrats from saying you have to come to congress. if this is not something that's dire and if it were, the strikes would have happened 24, 48 hours ago, you have to come to congress and get authority from us. that absolutely was a factor. the question is whether or not
the president is going to regret this decision because if he doesn't get the votes in the house and the senate it will be a huge embarrassment for him. >> let's stick with that line of questioning. where are the votes? is it likely to pass, dana? >> unclear. nobody can answer that question right now. nobody's daring to. the general thought at this point is the democratic-led senate is more likely to approve it than the republican-led house. now because it's the president's party but because of the makeup of the senate. there's people more willing to go ahead and give the president authority for limited strikes. even some of the republicans who would be natural supporters of the president like lindsey graham and john mccain who says we have to do more in syria, he's not sure he'd vote for this because he wants to know what will happen after the limited
strikes. >> we're waiting for congress to come back on september 9th. we would not have this extended coverage. i said well there goes to news. it's two weeks before anything would happen until congress meets. i want to ask the panelist here. why are we here? if congress isn't here. if congress isn't going to come back until the 9th. where's the urgency? >> it's a great question. it's one i was told by sources that senators asked of the chairman joints of chiefs why are we waiting? if you think this is a problem why are we not coming back this week? the answer is he feels comfortable that waiting will not change the dynamic. barbara i'm sure can talk more about the military reasons for that. you definitely are seeing many members of congress even those who may not vote yes saying we have to come back early. my understanding is that the
senate democratic leadership decide on this. they are mulling coming back next week. we do have the jewish holidays at the end of the week. the speaker said they will come back september 9th, and have that vote. there's the whole question of the white house having to take some time to get the votes in order to pass this. at one point you could say that taking more time could help get support. the other side of this, more time might make people flee and vote know. it's crap shoot. >> okay. dana, you can weigh in on this but i want to go to jim acosta. i want to find out from the white house. jim, was there a big split on friday night when the president told his advisers what he plans to do? was there a split at the white house? >> reporter: there was. anybody who enjoys the theater of washington, this was high
drama that broke out friday evening. keep in mind this briefing that was held by national security and senior administration officials earlier this afternoon with reporters, they laid out the tick tock of how this went down. seeking congressional authorization was not an option on the table according to senior administration officials. this was an idea banging around inside the president's head. it was on friday evening after he made those remarks sitting alongside the baltic leaders after john kerry came out and made those forceful remarks, the president asked his chief of staff to go for a walk and it was during this 45-minute walk that the president told his chief of staff that he was starting to have second thoughts
about rushing into any kind of imminent military action and he wanted to take a time out and seek congressional authorization and it was after that walk with his chief of staff that he called in his national security team and this robust debate broke out between different officials inside the white house. it was a heated exchange. at the end the president senior administration officials say the national security team then rallied behind the president. they are standing firm behind the president. the president went out and made phone calls to john kerry, joe biden. they finalized the decision this morning. >> we were all glued watching john kerry give this long drawn out dramatic speech about making the case for going, at least some military action, with syria and now this. why put john kerry out there on friday and then less than 24
hours later say, we're going to hold our horses a little bit here? >> reporter: that's a very good question. john kerry will be on the sunday morning talk shows tomorrow morning including state of the union. in some ways john kerry was not only talking about what he thinks and what the administration thinks, he was responding to what was happening around the world. the united nations had really in the minds of the white house had really stimmied this president. they could not go to the u.n. security council and say give us a vote for striking syria because russia was saying no. we're not going to give you that vote. the united kingdom, britain that's always there with the united states just had that traumatic vote voting against military action. john kerry came out and made the statements, it was also a message to the world and senior
administration officials were asked about john kerry's performance. the president feels just as forcefully as john kerry and feel good about his performance through all of this. no question a big difference there. >> that was hi first words. he said i have the authorized military action and i think we should take military action against syria. also let's talk about john kerry and chuck hagel. were they on opposite sides here or were they in complete support of the president or were they on the same side? do they not want to go? >> reporter: we pressed senior administration officials of who was on which side and they declined to comment. i think those are details that will get out in the coming days. they want to present a united front even though it was a divided one last night. >> let's go to barbara starr at the pentagon.
you've been listening to this. it's going to be up to the u.s. military if and when this finally happens. give us the latest from the pentagon. obviously, we are ready if this does happen. it doesn't appear to be at least ten days out yet before anything could happen unless congress comes back for a special session. >> that's right. the u.s. military is ready to go. they're making that very clear. they still have those warships in the eastern mediterranean. five ships with about 40 tom ha tomahawk missiles on staff. we were told quote, we continue to refine our targeting based on the most recent intelligence and the chairman assured the president we would have appropriate targeting options ready when he called for them. what are we talking about? u.s. intelligence has seen the syrians move around.
their men, troops and equipment in the last several days dispersing it in advance of what they thought was planned u.s. attack. this will mean the u.s. military to be ready will have to keep targeting, retargeting, loading those missiles with new gps coordinates. not complicated. they know how to do it but it's an intelligence challenge. they'll have to keep after this. make sure they know where all the targets are in syria so when the president calls, indeed they're ready to go. and, most importantly, there's another no answer to this question. what if the syrian regime engages in another chemical attack in the coming days. what will the president order the military to do or not do. >> a limited attack if it does happen. ships, no boots on the ground. when you're talking about chemical weapons can you be that targeted from a warship?
>> well, do we have the intelligence capability to conduct the surveillance with our satellites to watch for any chemical stockpiles. the actual agent moving around. when a tomahawk missile hit a warehouse and thinks it's a warehouse, the u.s. knows there isn't tons of gas inside of that because they don't want to hit by all accounts an actual stockpile of chemical agents. that could be very problematic if it disperses into the atmosphere. they're looking to hit the delivery systems, the rockets, the shells so the regime can't engage in a useful attack. the next ten days are going to turn auout to be an intelligenc challenge to make sure they stay up on all of this. >> do we still have dana and jim there will? >> i'm here. >> i'm going to ask this question to you barbara.
where is martin dempsey now? do you know? >> he was at the white house earlier today. he's got communications. he keeps in touch with 24/7. >> dana, do we know about the congressional leaders. so much pooch are some people are arounded because the president and john kerry went to play golf. that's not great optics is it? >> you can look at in it a couple of ways. they're human. you can digest and think better. i think we want our leaders to be human. on the other side -- >> there's a big movie theater and bowling alley and basketball court where he didn't have to be
in front of cameras. >> you're right. the optics are everything. it's labor day weekend. there's no question that there is a balance here between congress not being here and the president being hard at work. i just want to mention one other thing our viewers can keep this mind talking about people being home. that could be driving part of this. a poll came out over the weekend or yesterday, i should say, that said 79% of americans want congress to approve or authorize this before going ahead. that's a stunning number and i'm sure people who are back home with constituents.
>> listen, i'm not saying that the president doesn't deserve to but the optics are very important. george bush was criticized a lot for optics. thank you very much, dana. thank you jim and barbara starr. tomorrow secretary of state john kerry will be on cnn state of the union. that's sunday morning 9:00 eastern right here on cnn. in a move that surprised many d.c. pundits, the president made his case for military action and then said it's now up to congress. new great panel will dig into that. you don't want to miss them. it's going to be better on camera. just ahead, the new york times website disappeared off the web for hours and a group of syrian hackers said they did it. could they take down more than just websites. i have low testosterone. there, i said it.
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should not use androgel. serious side effects include worsening of an enlarged prostate, possible increased risk of prostate cancer, lower sperm count, swelling of ankles, feet, or body, enlarged or painful breasts, problems breathing during sleep, and blood clots in the legs. tell your doctor about your medical conditions and medications, especially insulin, corticosteroids, or medicines to decrease blood clotting. in a clinical study, over 80% of treated men had their t levels restored to normal. talk to your doctor about all your symptoms. get the blood tests. change your number. turn it up. androgel 1.62%. britta olsen is my patient. i spend long hours with her checking her heart rate, administering her medication, and just making her comfortable. one night britta told me about a tradition in denmark,
"when a person dies," she said, "someone must open the window so the soul can depart." i smiled and squeezed her hand. "not tonight, britta. not tonight." [ female announcer ] to nurses everywhere, thank you, from johnson & johnson. the president spoke today addressing his plan or part of plan for action against syria. more on that in a moment. light now i'm joined by middle east editor for news week. i want to start with you. before raid thead this article, first question is why are we here? it will be ten days, at least. >> we're here because we're invited by don lemon.
you're absolutely right. the president took the moral urgency out of this moment. i think i heard your exchange with dana and when he put the secretary of state out there to give this passionate statement, this has been the brightest moment of john kerry's career. this moral case he made for intervention in syria and then you turn around and say we can wait. this intervention is not time sensitive. it is time sensitive. i think the world is looking at barack obama and his authority as war leader has really been damaged substantially. you cannot call for war effort and say i'll take it to congress. he's doing so against the background of british prime minister david cameron taking a case of war to the house of commons and losing. there's a suspicious, what's
barack obama going to do. what if congress turns him down? >> you know, we shall see. i don't think it's as dire. i don't think david cameron situation is as dire as many people are making it out to be and probably it won't be for the president because it puts it on congress or whatever happens. you were disagreeing. >> nobody in america wants this war. let's start with that. i think the president felt he was being stampeded into a war by his own staffer a and washin elite. >> his own words as well. >> he said red line. he said red line a year ago. is that written in the bible. people bring that up as a typical washington story, typical washington hysteria. the french call the logic of war. everybody gets on this train within a power elite and just keeps pushing toward war until there's no turning back. he said it's time to stop and take breath.
>> i understand that. in that if you think it's just politics playing out but don't you think the president feels some sort of pressure saying those are my words. am i going to have any credibility if i do nothing. >> he said he's going to do something about it, but he said congress has got to get on board. frankly, he had not put the ducks in a row that he needs to do before he does anything. it's not going to be a limited strike. you start with a limited strike, it's going to escalate. he'll need a lot more support. >> what is a limited strike? are you telling your enemy i'm not going to go all the way. i'm only going to go just a little bit. is there really such a thing as a limited strike? >> look at the logic of this campaign that president obama has in mind. you send a telegraph to assad. the telegraph is your regime will not be touched. we're not doing a regime change. we're just going to punish you for the use of chemical weapons. it's not the way to wage war.
it's not the way to wage a war in an area sensitive to appearances as this greater middle east. many of the allies of president obama have begun to have second thoughts about this. prime minister of turkey said we don't want this kind of campaign. we want a serious campaign but we'll return to the point -- >> he doesn't want a limited campaign. >> let the turks fight the war. >> he thinks bashar al-assad should be taken out or removed is a better term. >> you don't shoot to wound anymore. you shoot to kill. fp you' if you're not going to overthrow assad, why do this? the point you made about secretary kerry. kerry came out and made this passionate case, this moral case for war and now you said you can wait. >> this is not such bad
diplomacy and bad politics. what the president is doing is exactly what george w. bush did in the fall of 2002 when he went before the general assembly and said the international community has to take its responsibility for disarming hussein. >> i have to take a break. george w. bush also said i'm giving you hussein, one more chance before i invade your country. >> that in effect is what the president is doing right now. >> can i say, i misspoke earlier and said the secretary of state and the president went to play golf, it was the vice president. you don't like that. >> this doesn't look good. there was a moment when hillary clinton was secretary of state, she was going to istanbul for a conference on syria. she stopped in south africa and cut a rug on the dance floor in south africa. many people in the region war wondering what kind of behavior
is this. we now have the president, this a somber moment in the life of our country and region and 1400 people have been killed in this attack, it's good to forego the golf course. >> no one is denying, all adult, everyone needs to relax but you have to be at least aware of the optics. >> you want to stop the hysteria then you do have an optic. you do have something that stops the hysteria. >> stand by. we'll break down what the prepondera president said and could part of this conflict play out in cyber space. i'm not talking about your favorite website going down but could syrian hackers target u.s. infrastructure? that's next. [ male announcer ] shaq vs. pain.
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asked congress to debate and vote on a limited u.s. military action in syria. listen to the president. >> over the last several days we heard from members of congress who want their voices to be heard. i disagree. this morning i spoke with all four congressional leaders and they agreed to schedule a debate and vote as soon as congress comes back into session. >> let's bring in our panel now. we have two cnn military analysts in washington. okay. rick, i'm going to start with you first. is getting congress involved with this decision a good idea or bad idea, you think? >> from the military perspective i think it's a bad idea.
i know for the u.s. it's good thing for the people to be heard. what we have done is give the syrian military a gift. we've given them ten days to do what they want to do. we have freedom now to mount another offensive. they have time to disperse their assets. whatever we're going to strike today or tomorrow is no longer where it was yesterday. they're moving things. they have ten more days to honker down. >> you agree with that? >> absolutely right. >> he got rid of the weapons of mass destruction. that's why we can't find them. >> the evidence is irrefutable. this is what this man did. at some point you don't need to dwell on the evidence. you need to have faith in your mission. the president does not want to
go to war. when you're reluctant you give away the feeling to other people in the region and in particular that you don't want to go to war. >> where's my general here? do you agree? are they signaling by doing this, are we signaling to syria what we're not going to do giving them chance to move things around so that perhaps they won't be found? >> don, absolutely correct. the one thing you cannot get back in warfare is time. we have given time to assad to disperse his force, disperse his delivery means. as rick has indicated to conduct another offensive. why not i've used them before quite effectively. i'm got the entire world mad at me. you never want to lose freedom of action. the united states has lost
freedom of action. i can guarantee you planners inside the pentagon right now who are familiar with all of these consideration in terms of the allocation of force, the preparation times, the rehearsals that are necessary and what our opponent, what the opponent does and what he does with that time to better prepare himself are right now moving over into the shadows and corners going this is bad idea. >> it's interesting because i know politicos do this and the media does it a lot, what about iraq. what about kosovo? what about libya? we always compare it to some other military action or being on the brink of some other military action. is that fair? >> we've had this conversation. we should lay iraq to rest. we should lay it to rest and then you have your right, the example of kosovo has been used.
kosovo is not a bad model. this is bill clinton. no warrior was he, but he did it on his own. some people are very comfortable with that but you're exactly right. it's a discreet fight right now in this year in syria. >> i'm going to let you get in but i heard spider marks saying amen. why do you agree? >> totally agree. there's nothing wrong with being a reluctant warrior. we should all be reluctant warriors. you look at what's at risk if you're not. at the same time you have the lead. you have to have the fortitude to understand, there was moral outrage in the form of the president's speech a couple of days ago. what you heard today and what you heard from secretary kerry yesterday now that moral outrage
has been qualified. i'm not sure why that's the case. they didn't do their work to get to a position where they can act with leadership and aggression and confidence. we don't see that. >> it's all different. i agree. i was doing this during iraq. there's vast difference between iraq and this even in the coverage. also libya as well. there's a vast difference between libya and this. all the situations are unique in their own right. stick around. my entire panel will get in. chris, i'll let you speak after this. will this play out in cyber space. could syrian hackers target u.s. infrastructure? that's a real question and that's next. yeah we can get some peanut...that is huge.
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we're back. chris, did you agree with what the general is saying here? >> first of all, we know the technological edge the u.s. military has over syria is overwhelming. s assad knows that. they don't want to have to reprogram their cruise missiles, but they can do it and do it pretty easily. the biggest difference between this war is iraq.
iraq, eight years. costing a 100,000 or more lives. that's the big difference between now and then. >> do you remember the president said then, george w. bush said this is going to be limited. we'll be out of there in a small amount of time. >> we know that bush was lying. we know that bush knew perfectly well all through 2002 that bewanted to go to war. we know a lot of people facilitated that by creating this hysteria by saying we don't want the next cloud that forms over new york to be a mushroom cloud. we now saddam didn't have any weapons. >> we know that now looking in the rear view mirror. all the weapons inspectors said they thought there were weapons
of mass destructions and they never found them. >> they didn't say that. they went in and said that might be the case. why? because there was a symbolic raid four years before operation desert fox that resulted in all u.n. inspectors being taken out of country. we were completely blind for four years. >> we don't want to relitigate. >> we should put this in the rear view mirror. >> you were pushing for it the whole time. >> you don't know what i was pushing for. >> we want to. go ahead. >> you can't go back and look at the iraq war and say here is this dummy. it was about lying. >> a piece of tracing paper on top of it and show the similarities. >> you need to take a look at the context. the context was 9/11. the entire country was convinced -- >> eight years. >> the context of the iraq war in 2003 was connected with 9/11
and the american people signed up for the war. >> the context of syria is connected to eight years of iraq. that's all. >> i think syria is a vastly different question. it's a country torment pd. there's a an issue and distinct time. >> it's not true of hussein? >> saddam was everything bashar is and worse. again and again we need to stay with syria. we can't revisit iraq and relitigate. >> i agree with you. we don't want to draw false equivalents. all we know is what we know and iraq is our most recent one that we can draw comparisons. >> especially in light of what was done today. the key question is american support for military action
against syria. if we take it as a given that really it would be a great idea to get rid of bashar assad and for the u.s. to get involved then you need a whole lot more american support that exists. >> stand by. we'll talk much more about this. i want to get to this because i think it's really important as well. we're talking about cyber space. the president said the u.s. would be vjustified by punishin the regime. what kind of reaction could we expect? one threat is a cyber war putting us all on the front line, all of us. here is brian todd. >> reporter: server not found. a screen designation that many new york times website customers had to deal with for 20 hours. the website of one of the largest newspapers taiken down. who are they? >> a pro-assad hacking group.
it appears to be a loose collective of a few individuals. there's been some information put out on the internet that it could be even as young as 19. >> reporter: if the u.s. conducts military strikes on syria will the hacks get worse as the pentagon once warned. >> if they did work with some of their allies with iran. if they were to get some support from china and russia, then, yes the game changes quickly. >> reporter: the targets for america's cyber ennys, the u.s. electrical grid, government computer systems. experts say the syrian electronic army isn't d sophisticated enough to do damage but with irans help or china or russia they could get there. >> is u.s. infrastructure in
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you saw our story about a cyber attack on the other side of the break just before the break. let me bring in cnn military analyst. the internet war goes beyond websites impacting even infrastructure. what kind of impact are we talking about here, possibly talking about here? >> this would be one of the options that you could see in response to an attack. there will be a whole host of possibilities. this is a low threat, little threat of retaliation. it's easy to do. they could have real impact. so far the attacks have going after soft targets. when you start to go after more things, i think they would go after the pentagon networks where there are vulnerabilities but i'm not sure this group has
the wherewithal to take this on. >> what could syria use a weapon here? >> it's something they could do. the vast level of the syrian capabilities and our capabilities even with the limited amount of warships is so large that i don't think you're going to see a serious syrian military response beyond trying to defend against the attack. this is something that could happen with very little threat or retaliation. >> standby. i want to bring in some other folks. the rest of my panel here now. just now joining us is a research fellow, new american foundation.
all right. you've been listening to all of this. you heard what the gentleman said. he said it's because it's something that they can do. it's also something that's new. this is a new possible line of attack in wartime. >> we're seeing a lot of these cyber attacks from the syrian side. they have been able to bring down al jazeer. we're afraid what nay can do to the homeland when we have an air strike and how that will affect people in america who don't really support any kind of attack and if there is any kind of attack that support will decrease. >> you mentioned other areas. you said it's being used a lot. how deeply concerned should the american people be about the possibility of an attack like this?
>> we should be concerned. they have used all in the past. if they're willing to gas they're own peoptheir own people, they're willing to attack our banks and electronics communications. this is not something america wants brought to the homeland. they can't understand why we're going to attack syria and if the syrians attack us they're going to be very frustrated with that. >> i see both gentlemen here in new york shaking their heads in particular. you think this is something that is, for some reason this rises to an urgent level for you. >> what you're talking about with the new york time s amusing. that's psychological warfare. the real concern is about fundamental infrastructure in the united states electricity,
dams, things like that. all of which are controlled through the internet in various ways and the sophistication of real cyber warfare is at a level as we saw with the virus that we used against iran where you can make things turn on and turn off. >> explain that. >> well, with the centrufuges n enriching uranium, we were making them slow down and speed up to wreck the system. you can do the same thing with the dam and the electrical grid in this country. the united states government is trying to guard against it, but it is possible and that's the level at which things start to get serious. if new york blacks out that's not amusing. that's frightening. that's the kind of thing that iran would like to be able to do
and iran is deeply in bed with the syrian government. >> how real is that threat and are we actually at a point where we're capable of doing that? standby and if al qaeda is bent on revenge in syria, why not just let them take care of it? i have low testosterone. there, i said it. see, i knew testosterone could affect sex drive, but not energy or even my mood. that's when i talked with my doctor. he gave me some blood tests... showed it was low t. that's it. it was a number. [ male announcer ] today, men with low t have androgel 1.62% testosterone gel.
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welcome back now the president barack obama says a limited u.s. military strike in syria won't resolve the deep
conflict he wants to go lead with a limited strike. what is the endgame here. the battered nation civil war is almost two and a half years old. what's the urgency? obviously chemical weapons but there's been reports they used chemical weapons before. i want to bring back in the panel. let's talk about the endgame here. what is the end game? some say they want to take bashar assad out of power at least. others want to get rid of chemical weapons. >> for the united states or syria? >> nor tfor the united states. >> we don't seem to have an endgame. one of the ideas that's floating around the middle east now is that various parties, united states, israel, others, are willing to see syria bleed for a
very long time because it neutralizes a major force in the region. i think that's a dangerous policy. i think there's a lot of concern that that is the intent of the obama administration. >> you're saying letting syria bleed for a long time. basically you're saying just letting people die? >> sure. it's happened before. the iran and iraq war was sustained by israel for a while. >> it pyres you agree on something. >> exactly. one of the objections i had for the use of chemical weapons is intervention. why use chemical weapons as your trigger. why not use air power? this has been an argument i have consistently made. >> that's a very good point. we have a segment called no talking points. we were saying if the definition of intervention was chemical weapons, there were many more people who died for air power or other types of activities than
chemical weapons, why is that the definition of intervention? >> in august 2012, the president said if they use chemical weapons that's going to be a game changer. >> obviously, it's awful that happened. >> right. i would think the use of air power, when the regime gets its fighter jets to level and destroy the city of aleppo and the city of hamas, that would have been the time to do something. the problem with the obama strategy or lack thereof, he comes to this late. it's a little too late. >> much more to come. we'll be right back. don't go anywhere. ♪
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